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The Six Best Cemitas Poblanas and Where to Find Them In Los Angeles

Named after the type of bread they are made from—an oversized sesame bun—a cemita is like the torta's cousin. It comes stacked high with milanesa, pápalo, quesillo, avocado, chipotle, and pickled jalapeño. Here's where to find the best from East L.A. to The Valley.

11:09 PM PDT on July 6, 2023

Photo: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Cemita de pollo (fried chicken) from Cemitas Tepeaca.

Talk to anyone in your neighborhood, from the owner of the corner store to your favorite taquero, and you are sure to run into someone who comes from Puebla, Mexico. Los Angeles is known for having one of the largest populations of Poblanos outside of Mexico. So it comes as no surprise that L.A. is also home to an incredible cemita scene.

Named after the type of bread they are made from—a large sesame bun, the cemita is sort of like the cousin of a torta, only stacked high with considerably more layers.

Each cemita spot is different, but will usually offer a choice of protein, including favorites like breaded and fried chicken or beef (milanesa), braised meat (barbacoa), ham, headcheese, and other options. It is always topped with avocado, onion, tomato, chipotle salsa, quesillo or queso Oaxaca, queso panela or queso fresco, jalapeño, and the ingredient that many say makes a cemita a cemita: pápalo, a leafy green that is extremely fragrant, with a potent and polarizing flavor that can best be described as a cross between tarragon, cilantro, fennel, and fresh stevia leaf.

Did we mention the size of your average cemita? Most of them have meat and toppings busting out of their seams and can make fully shareable meals.

Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up the six best cemitas Poblanas in Los Angeles for you to indulge in. Right as the lunch bell rings.

Cemita de pollo (fried chicken) from Cemitas Tepeaca. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Cemitas Tepeaca

Cemitas Tepeaca is a family-owned business run by Abraham Ruiz and his family. The food truck has four locations throughout the East Los Angeles area and has been serving its cemitas since 2005. Ruiz’s parents come from Tepeaca, Mexico, a region in Puebla, where they learned the craft of assembling a cemita. These consist of your choice of protein (chicken, beef, carnitas, cueritos (pickled pig skin]), and traditional toppings like pápalo, a bed of quesillo, raw white onion, and avocado. They top it all with their own house-made salsa de chipotle that has a slight sweetness to it. For Ruiz, what gives a cemita its distinct flavor is the pápalo. Although he would never judge a customer for ordering one without it, he said: “It has to have pápalo in order to be a cemita.”

If you are feeling bold, Cemitas Tepaca is also home to the "cemita challenge," where an 8-pound cemita dubbed “La Mera Mera” is rolled out on a platter for you to enjoy. 

Open: Monday through Sunday

Time: 10 A.M. to 11 P.M.

Address: 4151 East Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023.  Check IG for other locations. Closest Metro Line and Stop: Bus Line 66 - "Olympic / Herbert."

Alonso Uloa, owner (right). Screenshot via Cemitas Poblanas Los Chivos.

Cemitas Poblanas Los Chivos

You cannot write a cemita list around East Los Angeles without including the iconic, Tiktok-viral Cemitas Poblanas Los Chivos. If you are a local in the area, they need no introduction. Their red tent, long lines, and hyped-up personality are what keep the people coming to their stand every day they are open. If the cemitas are the star of the show, the owner Alonso Ulloa is the host, perpetually making every customer feel special while pilling his cemitas with all the avocado, quesillo, and chipotle as your heart desires. People come from all over to visit Los Chivos, located between an elementary school and a freeway. Their most popular cemitas are milanesa de res (breaded beef cutlet), chicken milanesa (breaded chicken cutlet), carne árabe (al pastor-like pork), carnitas, and cueritos, and last but not least, cabeza de puerco (pig head). Aside from their cemitas, they sell tacos, quesadillas, and mulitas. 

Open: Thursday through Monday

Time: 4:30 P.M. to 11:30 P.M.

Address: Eastern Ave & Gleason St. East Los Angeles, CA 90063. Closest Metro Lines and Stop: Bus Line 106 - "1st/Eastern" or Metro E Line - "Maravilla Station."

Cemitas El Rey Rico y Sabroso.

Cemitas El Rey Rico y Sabroso

“Con una cemita la vida es mejor.” (With a Cemita Life is Better).

That's the motto at Cemitas El Rey Rico y Sabroso. Like many cemita specialists, the business offers the usual proteins, but also puts their own spin on torta cubanas and cemitas alike in a monster of a cemita that includes fried protein, ham, queso de puerco (head cheese), quesillo, avocado, onion, chipotle, and papas con chorizo. If you happen to visit them and find room for more food, try their tacos de chapulines (grasshoppers), made with handmade tortillas. 

Open: Monday through Sunday

Time: 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. 

Address: 825 S Central Ave LA, CA 90021. Closest Metro Lines and Stop: Bus Lines 53 or 66 - "Central/Olympic."

Cemita de Milanesa de res at Cemitas La China Poblana.

Cemitas La China Poblana

Considered to be the cemita O.G. of Los Angeles, this family-owned business started near Salazar Park in 1991 and opened their first brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2005. Cemitas La China Poblana is where you go for that classic nostalgic taste. They serve up 16 different options, ranging from the classic milanesas to barbacoa, cecina, pata en vinagre (marinated cow tendon), and more.

In a 2018 L.A. Times piece, L.A. TACO editor Javier Cabral explained what makes their cemitas different from others: “An in-house baker bakes its cemita buns every morning and "a full-bodied quesillo string cheese is made exclusively for them by a local cheesemaker.”

Open: Monday - Thursday, 10:30 A.M. - 9:30 P.M. and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10:30 A.M. - 9:00 P.M.

Location: 3568 Whittier Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. Closest Metro Line and Stop: Bus Line 18 - "Whittier/Esperanza."

Screenshot via Cemitas Poblanas Cinco de Mayo Chapos Birrieria #2.
Cemitas Poblanas Cinco de Mayo Chapos Birrieria #2

This family-owned food truck is located in front of a CVS/Pharmacy, its red truck adorned with a portrait of Mexican Drug Lord El Chapo Guzman. In addition to touting its birria, Cinco de Mayo Chapos is also in the game with some of the best cemitas you will try in Los Angeles. 

Open: Check days on Instagram.

Time: 9 A.M. to 10 P.M.

Location: 3627 E. Cesar Chavez Ave. Closest Metro Lines and Stop: Bus Line 70 - "Cesar E Chavez/Rowan" or Bus Line 665 - "Gage/Cesar E Chavez."

Screenshot via Cemitas Don Adrian.
Cemitas Don Adrian

According to Cemitas Don Adrian, when the sandwiches first originated in Puebla, they did not contain any meat protein like they do today. All they contained was cemita bread, avocado, fresh cheese, pápalo, onions, and pickled jalapeños or chipotle. It's this same traditional cemita that Don Adrain serves. They also offer vegan protein options and a cemita with fish. At Don Adrain’s, they believe the cemita can be enjoyed for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast, offering their La Mañanera cemita with eggs, ham, and all the classic cemita toppings. For lunch and dinner, they offer the milanesa de res and chicken (thinly breaded chicken and meat). And if you think their regular cemitas are big, they also offer "La Grande," a cemita weighing in at twice the size of a regular one. 

Open: Check Instagram for updated days and times.

Two Locations: 14902 Victory Blvd, Van Nuys, California (Take-out ONLY). Closest Metro Lines and Stop: Bus Lines 164 or 237 - "Victory/Kester."

6522 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91401. Closest Metro Lines and Stop: Bus Line 233 - "Van Nuys/Hamlin" or Bus Lines 164, 237 or 761 - "Van Nuys/Victory."

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